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Cablegate: Niger: What's in a Number?

VZCZCXRO8604
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0197 0451623
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141623Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4112
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC

UNCLAS NIAMEY 000197

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI PREL PGOV EAID
SUBJECT: NIGER: WHAT'S IN A NUMBER?

REF: 06 NIAMEY 1255

1. Summary. Setting his sights on an improved position for
Niger on the United Nations (UN) Human Development Index
(HDI), Government of Niger (GON) President Mamadou Tandja
chose a February 13 launching ceremony for the 2007-2008 HDI
World Report as an occasion for experts to inform Nigeriens
about the methodology used to calculate the HDI. While the
GON totally rejected the 2006-2007 HDI World Report placing
Niger 177 (last) on the HDI (reftel), the President has found
position 174 less odious. He stated that Nigeriens need to
know the nation's weak points, to gain a clearer
understanding of what needs to be done for Niger to move up
even higher. The official theme of the ceremony was "Fight
Against Climate Change: A Human Solidarity Imperative in a
Divided World." President Tandja presided over the ceremony,
in the presence of the GON Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers,
other GON leaders, the diplomatic corps, non-governmental
organization representatives and members of civil society, to
officially receive the 2007-2008 HDI World Report. End
summary.

2. U.N. Development Program Resident Representative Khardiata
Lo N'Diaye (also U.N. System Coordinator in Niger) delivered
a hard copy of the world report to the President at the
conclusion of her remarks on climate change issues, stating
that developing countries pose the least harm to the planet,
but will most suffer the consequences of climate change. She
commended GON political engagement on climate change issues.
GON Minister of Environment and The Fight Against
Desertification Mohamed Akotey noted in his remarks that
Niger had signed the Kyoto Protocol and is putting in place
programs to rehabilitate land and reforest. Subsequently,
Niger Carbon Sequestration Expert Adamou Souley Massaoudou
presented a slide show on various GON activities:
rehabilitation of deteriorated land, planting of gum arabic
trees, community engagement in environment-friendly
investment contracts and a carbon sequestration project
launched in 2005.

3. Next Director General of Statistics Abdoullahi Beidou
presented a slide show exclusively on the HDI. President
Tandja expressed hope that Beidou's presentation would make
clear to viewers of the evening news, what Nigeriens must do
to move up several positions on the HDI. He wanted to know
what five countries were immediately ahead of Niger and those
nations' respective scores on various elements, insisting
that Nigeriens had no time to waste and needed to work harder
to move up several more places next year. He expressed
gratitude to GON workers and donor partners for the
interventions that contributed to Niger's moving up three
places from last year. He noted that better understanding
the methodology behind the statistics would help the GON
better orient its programs. Tandja initiated a debate by
questioning the methodology used to determine the literacy
score. He asked Beidou to define literacy, and questioned
why Niger's scores were only based on French language
literacy. He then asked members in the audience whether they
could speak and read with comprehension Arabic and other
local languages. Pleased with the response from the
audience, he suggested that the data collectors must take
into account other languages when gauging Niger's literacy
level. A member of the audience noted that the statistics
revealed that instability in the 1990s had slowed Niger's
development, then the same audience member inquired about the
effect the current instability in Niger was havng on
development. Tandja at that moment indicated he had to
leave, but suggested that other GON officials should stay
behind to continue the debate.


ALLEN

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